New rules to tame rogue boda bodas

Ugandans traveling from one destination to another by boda (motorbike taxis) on a wide avenue in the capital city. Boda is a rapid but risky mode of transport in Uganda. [Photo: Standard]

A database with the details of all motorcyclists is one of the measures the Government is mulling to restore order among the operators.

The ongoing crackdown on boda boda riders is informed by concerns that they are now a threat to national security as some are involved in crime.

This is a situation the authorities fear could get out of hand if not checked early. To underscore the gravity of the problem, security agencies have reportedly ranked criminal activities of boda bodas in the third position behind terrorism and religious extremism.

The proposed regulations to rein in the riders are expected to be unveiled in February next year when a task force formed to address the menace in the sector hands in its report.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Transport colleague, James Macharia, gazetted the task force last month.

The 12-member team will, among other duties, examine existing policy, and the institutional, legislative and administrative systems governing the motorcycle sector.

The team is also required to compile comprehensive data regarding safety, reliability, cost and other matters of interest to consumers.

This comes at a time when security agencies have complained about the involvement of boda boda riders in facilitating crime. There are an estimated one million operators in the country.

During the unveiling of the task force, Dr Matiang’i talked about the lawlessness portrayed by the operators.

Orderly manner

“The operators are wonderful young people and we understand that this is an industry that provides employment. But we want to teach them to live in an orderly manner because that is how they will succeed. There will be no two ways about it. They, too, have to follow the law,” Matiang’i said.

The riders have been accused of trafficking in arms, drugs and humans, and involvement in robbery and murder. They have also developed a reputation of mobbing motorists when one of them is involved in an accident.

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said detectives had profiled one individual in the city who owned 250 boda bodas for use in drug trafficking.

Mr Kinoti added that boda boda riders were heavily involved in the commission of crimes.

“If you go to the border, they are used for surveillance, to ship in arms and transport criminals. In urban areas they are used to traffic drugs, gangs and contraband goods. They are a danger at large,” he said.

Another detective said eateries and cake shops were using the riders to deliver drugs to consumers in their homes.

Safety kit

The rules that will target the riders include ensuring every operator has a safety kit, which will include a helmet, reflector and heavy jacket.

“No dealer will sell a motorcycle without the safety kit. Anyone who flouts the rule will have his or her licence cancelled,” said a source.

The kit will be for both the rider and the pillion passenger, and will be a mandatory requirement to get insurance cover.

Riders in public service will be required to pay for the National Hospital Insurance Fund as well as register in saccos.

Further, the National Transport Safety Authority will be required to digitally register the riders and issue them with identification chips.

But the most stringent laws will be on the training and certification of the riders before they can be permitted on the road.

The importance of training competent riders cannot be overstated given that boda bodas have become a way of life for many residents. They are the primary source of transport in most rural areas and make travel less onerous.